This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of THE SHOP magazine.
More and more travelers are taking a break from the corporate ladder to climb an aluminum ladder to a rooftop tent instead.
With the popularity of camping and overlanding booming, aftermarket shops are finding their own little slice of heaven by offering sales and installation of products for outdoor adventurers. Rooftop tents are a cornerstone of the market.
Available for nearly any camping style and vehicle type, these rugged, lightweight units provide safety and security, with enough available features to create attractive price points for any budget. Make them part of a complete off-road package to become a one-stop overlanding shop.
Manufacturers are eager to share more about rooftop tents, including sales techniques and common mistakes to avoid. Learn how easy it can be to help customers get their head in the clouds.
It’s no secret that many people love camping and the outdoors. Rooftop tents enhance that experience.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic presented the camping industry with unprecedented demand as consumers began to change their travel plans—looking to head outdoors while faced with travel restrictions. The increase of people participating in outdoor activities following the pandemic has only furthered the increase in interest within the rooftop tent market,” says Jamie McAvoy, sales and marketing director for Napier Outdoors. “Campers are seeking a comfortable setup, with the added ease and convenience of taking their campsite with them wherever their adventures lead.”
And, as adventurers share their exploits with the world, rooftop tents enjoy added exposure.
“Overlanding in general has been steadily gaining steam in the industry over the past few years. With a rooftop tent being one of the key components for overlanding, it’s only natural that this market is continuing to grow at an exponential rate,” says Jesse Brown, director of marketing for OFFGRID Outdoor Gear.
Those Instagram celebrities posting breathtaking views don’t hurt, either.
“More and more influencers are popping up over all platforms. Social media has made the consumer aware of the advantages of owning and using the rooftop tent,” says Jeff Doherty, brand manager for Tuff Stuff Overland. “Everyone has the urge to explore, and it is up to Tuff Stuff to provide the best quality product for the right price.”
Matt Konkle, category manager for Quadratec, says rooftop tents deliver on their promises.
We see two major factors that are driving the current RTT market. First, the continued popularity “Over the past few years, the market has really boomed, and it shows no signs of slowing down,” he says. “People love to get away from their busy schedules, pack up their Jeep and head into the wilderness. And putting a tent set up on their roof makes most of them feel a bit safer than just a ground solution.”
Such product recognition has benefited shops and consumers, says Michelle Bates, marketing manager for Overland Vehicle Systems.
“The recent explosion of the overland category in the U.S. in the last five years has had a significant effect on the rooftop tent market,” she says. “As more consumers discover rooftop tents’ convenience, comfort and versatility over traditional tents, they are increasingly seen as a desirable option for camping trips.”
More exposure means more players and more innovation.
“The increased consumer demand has led to an influx of new brands in the industry, providing more options as well as easier accessibility to purchase,” says Bates. “This competition has driven down prices while increasing quality, making rooftop tents an even more attractive option for recreational off-roaders, campers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.”
It remains to be seen, however, if the market can support more suppliers over the long term.
“The market is becoming oversaturated,” states Jenn Crooks, sales manager for BundutecUSA Inc.
All that product exposure may lead to customers thinking they have all the answers. Quality retailers and installers, however, will help overlanders dig a little deeper to ensure the proper product is selected for each project.
“A common mistake would be selling the customer the wrong tent,” says Doherty. “A simple fix would be to ask the correct questions and acquire knowledge of the product itself.”
Awareness can combat what Crooks calls some shops’ “unfamiliarity of the available products.”
Doing a little homework on the front end often results in increased sales and happier customers out on the trail.
“One of the biggest issues we’ve seen is that some resellers are simply not taking the time to educate themselves on the rooftop tents they are selling,” Brown notes. “You need to be mindful of different mounting compatibilities for each model of tent that you carry to ensure that you’re getting the right tent for your customer’s build.”
Konkle explains that some setups fit a wider range of vehicles than others.
“While many rooftop tents will work with just about anything, there are some only designed to fit certain rack systems,” he says. “Spending time to discover what a customer really wants out of a tent and then matching something that will fit on their vehicle pretty much ensures a happy end result.”
Securing and transporting the tent are important considerations, Bates explains.
“One common oversight made by some is not taking into consideration the vehicle rack mounting solution for the rooftop tent,” she says. “It is important to have a rack system that is rated to handle the weight of the rooftop tent and its intended users. Both the static and dynamic load ratings play an equally important role in having a proper setup for a positive experience.”
When it comes to maximizing sales of rooftop tents, nothing beats experience and service.
“Know the product; know your customers,” suggests Doherty from Tuff Stuff. “It boils down to product knowledge and being confident in what you are selling.”
Ask questions to find clarity.
“To ensure the best match between customers and products, it’s important to understand their preferences and how they intend to explore,” says BundutecUSA’s Crooks. “Take the time to get to know your customers and their needs.”
Inside the shop, hands-on experiences make the products more approachable, adds OFFGRID’s Brown.
“If you have the space for it, dedicate a section of your showroom to showcase a tent for display. Train your staff to demonstrate the setup and takedown process,” he recommends. “You should also encourage your customers to participate in the demonstrations as well to allow them to experience firsthand the use and functionality of the tent design.”
Bates from OVS also explains how seeing is believing.
“A tip for increased sales of rooftop tents would be to have units on display. Providing an inviting environment allows customers to get up close with the product and, combined with providing helpful expert advice, creates an inviting atmosphere to maximize sales,” she explains. “Offering a variety of sizes and styles at various prices points is also important. It allows the shop to capture the sale regardless of where the customer is on the spectrum of rooftop tents or vehicle requirements.”
Mixing a love of the outdoors with smart product packaging is a formula for success, says Quadratec’s Konkle.
“Offer knowledge, passion, service and affordability. Shop associates should learn the top selling points of each tent and be able to answer questions on why one tent may function better than another for certain customers,” he says. “Also, keep an eye on the market and ensure price points are where they need to be while also perhaps offering discounts on accessory items or other overlanding products to increase average dollars per sale.”
Add it all up and the products’ outlook is bright.
“Once installed, a rooftop tent helps adventurers make the most of their time on each trip,” says Napier’s McAvoy. “The rooftop tent market is expected to continue to significantly grow between now and 2030.”